Concrete Vs. Plastic Septic Tanks

Choosing a septic tank is a major decision for people without access to a municipal water system. Prior to deciding what to buy, there are environmental factors that have to be considered and assessed. The most obvious one is the size of the household. The number of people who will be using the septic system determines the size and location of the tank. One of the methods used is to make this decision is the number of bedrooms, which can vary from none to six with the per gallons needed ranging from 750 to over 1700.  The next two factors, lot size, and slope, are very critical. Property that has a steep slope has to have piping that will determine the flow rate of the waste material. If the pipes have a drastic downward angle, waste will travel faster than the recommended two feet per second causing solid material to build up blocking the pipe and creating clogs. If the lot is small, there will be seepage and foul odors.
It is important to know the location of bodies of freshwater near the property. With the most sophisticated septic system, there is always the possibility of seepage and leaks that can get into the water table. This can lead to several very undesirable problems and angry neighbors. Every county has a set of regulations regarding the installation of septic tanks. The best way to ensure your compliance is to hire a licensed contractor who has a septic system installation certification. This single step can safeguard against any legal problems. Prior to installation, a soil sample is taken by the homeowner as well as an inspection of the property by the health department. The biggest concern in the process is the protection of any nearby groundwater. Having a licensed and experienced contractor relieves any possible unforeseen ordinance violations
Once approval has been given, the next step is to choose the type of tank to purchase. As new materials have developed, the number of types of tanks has rapidly increased and varies widely leading to more confusion, which increases the difficulty of the final choice. The selection of tanks includes steel, fiberglass, aerobic, concrete, plastic, and many others. Each has its advantages and needs to be considered carefully. The key is to decide on a tank that fits your budget, property, and family. When you are speaking to a contractor about septic tanks, their list always begins with the two most popular kinds – concrete and plastic. Concrete has been the choice for over two hundred years and was the first to be used in France. Early in the twentieth century, steel was thought to be perfect since it lasts longer and is more durable. What contractors did not consider when installing steel was the acidity of human waste and how easily steel can corrode. Since the 1960’s, plastic and concrete have been the most common materials for the construction of septic tanks. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Plastic tank advantages 

  • They are much less expensive to install.
  • They are lightweight.
  • The design of the plastic material is resistant to corrosion, which guarantees a long-lasting tank.
  • Installation does not require heavy equipment or special machinery.
  • They are watertight. Lids and connections fit very snuggly.
  • They are not affected by radical fluctuations in temperature.
  • It is very unlikely that they will be damaged by tree roots or land shifts, which adds to their longevity.
  • Recent designs include ribs, which increases the strength of the tank.
  • Additions such as lids and manhole extensions are very easy to install.


Plastic tank disadvantages 

  • Installation is key to the success of a plastic tank. If not completed properly, the tank can shift and rise in wet weather depending on the type of soil.
  • Improper installation can lead to broken connections causing it to disconnect from the system.
  • Though the plastic material is very durable, it is susceptible to punctures during transport and installation. It must be handled carefully with special attention paid to any sharp obstacles.
  • As with any type of plastic, the material can crack and break. Monitoring and regular maintenance are essential.
  • Though plastic may seem to be a very attractive material for this type of usage, many states and counties do not allow plastic septic tank installation.


Concrete advantages 

  • The main feature of this type of tank is its durability. Concrete can last for decades in all types of climates and conditions.
  • The sturdiness of concrete removes any worry regarding damage during installation.
  • Concrete tanks are resistant to temperature and climate changes.
  • Once a concrete tank is installed, it will require little to no maintenance.
  • Installation of concrete tanks is hassle-free and will be instantly approved in all cities, states, and counties.


Concrete disadvantages 

  • Concrete is more costly to install, maintain, and repair.
  • The installation of the concrete is very time-consuming.
  • Heavy equipment and machinery are required when installing a concrete tank. The process may take several days.
  • Repairing a concrete tank is as complicated as its installation and must be completed by a trained professional, which can be expensive as well as time-consuming.
  • With concrete, there is the constant threat of cracking leading to seepage and contamination, which can be prevented with proper maintenance.The type of tank that you need will depend on your requirements. When installing a septic system, you are creating a mini-municipal waste control system. All care must be given to the health of your family as well as the protection of the environment. A properly sealed tank can prevent outside water from entering the system, which could upset the waste treatment process. Regardless of the brand, all tanks are required to be tested either hydrostatically or by vacuum testing guaranteeing that the tank will remain watertight over its lifetime of use. To protect yourself, it is important to choose a certified licensed septic tank contractor, contact the local health department, and decide on a tank that fits the needs of your family as well as concern for its environmental impact.